Hard up Corby families likely to be impacted most by council tax changes
However low income households in Kettering could benefit from scheme set to be brought in by the new unitary council
Corby’s most hard up households will be hit the hardest when new council tax benefit levels come in with the new unitary council next April – but Kettering’s poorest homes will be better off.
Those in Corby in receipt of council tax benefit relief may have to pay three times what they are currently paying in just a few months, as part of new council tax harmonisation measures that will have to be brought in as part of the unitary reorganisation.
Currently residents across Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northants all pay varying levels of council tax and the authorities also all have different benefit schemes.
Corby Council has the most generous scheme – which requires eligible households to pay eight per cent of the total bill – whereas Kettering Council demands those eligible for support pay 45 per cent of the total bill.
East Northants and Wellingborough households that qualify pay 20 per cent of the total bill.
From April the benefit rate will have to be standardised and could be set at 24 per cent, which local authority officers have worked out is the level at which the benefit scheme is cost neutral.
To move each household down to the eight per cent benefit rate currently used by Corby Council would cost the new authority £1.9m in tax levied whereas, if the Kettering 45 per cent rate was brought in across the board, an extra £2.2m would go into the new council’s collection fund.
The benefit scheme is only for working age households and pensioners can receive up to 100 per cent reduction, depending on their financial situation.
The harmonisation of council tax is one of the biggest issues facing the new authority. A working group set up to look at the matter has recommended that a scheme is developed for consultation, is agreed by the executive in September and then put before residents to have a say.
Speaking at the North Northants shadow executive meeting on August 27, county councillor for the Oakley division, Cllr Chris Stanbra, said the change in benefit level would cost Corby households £5 extra a week.
He told the executive: “Effectively it is going to ask them to pay three times as much council tax as they are currently paying. These are not wealthy people. They are people on the breadline, they are on benefits and they are going to have to find an extra £5 a week from somewhere if you adopt a 24.9 per cent scheme. I would ask that is something you bear in mind when you come to make your decision.”
Merging councils can take up to eight years to harmonise council tax levels, however the working party has recommended that the levelling out of rates across North Northants is done in ‘the shortest possible time’ and has also recommended the average council tax method is used. In the long run this method could net the authority an extra £17m.
Currently East Northants Band D council tax payers pay the least across North Northants, with an annual levy of £1,434 (this figure is without any parish council or police and fire commissioner precept). Kettering pays the highest rate at £1,490, with Corby second highest at £1,475 and Wellingborough at £1,441.